- What the Constitution Means to Me by Heidi Schreck (16 productions)
- Clyde’s by Lynn Nottage (14)
- POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive by Selina Fillinger (13)
- The Lehman Trilogy by Stefano Massini, adapted by Ben Power (12)
- Dial M for Murder adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from Frederick Knott’s original play (9*)
- Fat Ham by James Ijames (9)
- The Thanksgiving Play by Larissa FastHorse (8)
- Beautiful: The Carole King Musical by Douglas McGrath (book), Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil (music & lyrics) (8)
- Sanctuary City by Martyna Majok (8)
- Cabaret by Joe Masteroff (book), John Kander (music), Fred Ebb (lyrics) (7)
- Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe (7)
- The Rocky Horror Show by Richard O’Brien (7)
*In fact there will actually be 10 productions of Dial M for Murder in the coming season, but Norfolk’s Virginia Stage Company will use Knott’s original script rather than the Hatcher adaptation.
Satire is what closes on Saturday night, goes an old theatrical saw, and more recently we’ve heard from some quarters that theatregoers would rather not have politics mixed in with their entertainment. Well, if this year’s list of most-produced plays is any indication, TCG member theatres are banking that that’s not the case—or at least not entirely. As in past years, this list reflects a healthy mix of main course and dessert, of challenge and escape (if you don’t recall, last year’s top three plays were Clyde’s, Chicken & Biscuits, and Clue).
The list starts with three plays by women, all with a political valence: Heidi Schreck’s brilliantly personal yet pointed What the Constitution Means to Me, Lynn Nottage’s sneaky allegory about forgiveness, Clyde’s, and Selina Fillinger’s raucous farce POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive. The list also includes the bravura economic history, The Lehman Trilogy, the blistering satire of “woke” white folks, The Thanksgiving Play, and Martyna Majok’s moving piece about immigration, Sanctuary City. James Ijames’s Fat Ham is arguably a hybrid case—an examination of toxic masculinity and Black manhood that morphs into a dance party (spoiler alert). The rest includes a straight-up mystery (Dial M for Murder, remarkably its first appearance on our lists), the improvisatory play Every Brilliant Thing (its first reappearance on the list since 2019), and substantive musicals: the cautionary Cabaret, the empowering Beautiful, and, in an age of renewed moral panic about drag shows and gender fluidity, the freshly edgy Rocky Horror Show.
These listings were compiled from a total of 1,560 full shows (productions with runs of at least a week) at 558 TCG member theatres all across the U.S. as they appear in our Fall 2023 print issue. (The listings you can see here may not match the printed listings exactly.) It should be noted that the former number is up from last year’s 1,298, though still well short of the roster in the 2019-20 season, which was 2,229. There’s still some recovery in store for U.S. theatres, it’s clear. As usual we excluded productions of A Christmas Carol and plays by Shakespeare from this list. (For the record: This year, the former numbers 43, the latter 40.)
And of course, as meaningful as these lists can be as a snapshot of the industry’s tastes, please don’t skip the many pages of listings in our print edition (or, again, scroll through these listings). To my eyes they paint a picture of a sprawling and thriving American theatre, which we’re grateful to cover, in bad times and good.
Rob Weinert-Kendt (he/him) is the editor-in-chief of American Theatre.
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